He saw something floating in the ocean. Intrigued, he grabbed it and pulled it out of the water. He had been fishing in that spot for years, but he had never seen anything like that before. It was a perfectly handcrafted doll, and he thought he'd take it home to show his wife. Then, as he went to pick it up, it made a noise, and he knew there, and then, that was no doll.
Jessica Whyte and her partner Josh itched for a vacation. Jessica longed for the smell of the ocean and the warm sand between her toes, so after some research, they found Murphy’s Holiday Camp in Matata, New Zealand, and decided that it was perfect for a family getaway. They had no idea that their vacation was about to become a living nightmare.
They arrived at the beautiful campsite and went about setting up their tent close to the breathtaking shoreline. Once done, they started to enjoy their much-needed holiday in earnest, with their 18-month-old son, Malachi, in tow. Josh cast out his fishing line and Jessica relaxed on the beach, while Malachi sat between the couple, gazing far out to sea. The moment was precious, but little did the small family know, it was about to become anything but.
Malachi dug trenches in the sand with his baby fingers and giggled. He loved the beach. When it was time to return to their campsite, Jessica scooped him up and gave him kisses on his salty cheeks, but nothing could stop the baby from roaring. He kicked with his heels and wailed until he collapsed, exhausted, in his mother's arms. Jessica thought that he just might be tired from all of the day's adventures, so she decided to put him to bed. Still, she had no idea that her son would soon have other plans of his own.
With Malachi tired out and put to bed in their tent, Josh lit a campfire, and he and Jessica talked about their hopes and dreams late into the night. Jessica looked at her sleeping son's face, "My world of love, my first born son, the beginning of life" she whispered, and her heart swelled with love. The next morning, as she looked over, her heart stopped.
Jessica and Josh eventually retired to their tent and slept soundly throughout the night. Not even their son's stirring woke them. Malachi, however, had other plans. He awoke in the early hours of the morning, and silently unzipped the tent. Then he took off as fast as his little legs would carry him to his favorite place in the whole world all on his own -- the beach.
Gus Hutt was out fishing in the Bay Of Plenty that morning, but little did he know, the bay was about to yield something far more precious than fish. In a twist of fate, Hutt walked 100 meters to the left of the campsite instead of heading in a straight line to his favorite fishing spot. Then, he saw something floating in the waves.
Hutt saw the pale object bobbing up and down, far out in the waves. Intrigued, he motored his little boat closer. Then, he saw that it was a doll and wondered if it had washed out to shore from the beach. It was beautifully crafted, so he stretched out his arm to pull it out of the ocean.
He managed to grab the porcelain doll by the arm and pull it into his boat. It had dark hair and pale skin, truly realistic and lifelike. Beautiful. He couldn't wait to show his wife -- she would be thrilled by the craftsmanship. Just then, the doll let out a little squeak, and Hutt's eyes widened in bewilderment as he fell to his knees.
“His face looked just like porcelain with his short hair wetted down, but then and he let out a little squeak and I thought, ‘Oh Lord, this is a baby and it’s alive,’” Hutt explained later. He rushed back to shore with the baby and prayed that he had pulled him from the water in time.
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Hutt arrived back at the campsite and was relieved that the boy seemed to be making a recovery. Overall, he was a little cold and very wet, but he seemed lucid and none the worse for wear after his harrowing ordeal. Hutt couldn't believe it. Then, he immediately began to search for the boy's parents.
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Fortunately, there was only one couple with a little boy in the campsite, and Hutt 's wife was able to locate them quickly. "She ran to the tent and just shook it and asked, 'where's your baby – we just pulled one from the sea' and the mother just screamed," Hutt recalled.
"He was floating at a steady pace with a rip in the water. If I hadn't been there, or if I had just been a minute later I wouldn't have seen him," said Hutt. "He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn't meant to go; it wasn't his time." Shortly afterward, Emergency services and the Matata Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived on the scene.
“I don’t think my heart [beat] from hearing that to seeing him. I don’t think my heart worked,” Jesica said of the moment she was informed that Hutt had pulled her boy from the ocean. Thankfully, Malachi was released from the Whakatāne Hospital shortly afterward, with the doctors claiming that it was a miracle. The stars aligned that day and Hutt happened to be at the right place at exactly the right time.
"[Later] I followed his tracks down to the beach and saw his little footprints in the sand where he walked in," said Hutt. "It was about 15m away from where I had my rod, so he wasn't in the water long. I must've just missed seeing him go in." But that wasn't the last he saw of the lucky toddler.
Josh and Jessica stopped by Hutt's home to thank him one more time. "He was wriggling trying to get down to have a look at everything, he was just a lovely, cheeky little fella," Hutt said. Malachi doesn't have any lasting effects from his dangerous ocean encounter.
Soon, the story spread on Social Media and everyone claimed that it was indeed a miracle. One commenter wrote: "Gus was where God wanted him to be," and another: "His guardian angel was on duty for sure!" But not all the comments were positive.
Some people accused Jessica and Josh, saying that they should have been more aware of what their son was doing. Some say they don't know how the little boy managed to unzip the tent and disappear without his parents noticing. But there will always be differing opinions and criticism when it comes to parenting. Jessica had just one important thing to say.
“Zip your tents up. And zip them up nice and high if you’ve got a child that can reach. Put them on a padlock,” she said. “We wouldn’t let him run into the water on his own. People can have those [judgmental] thoughts. They can think we’re bad parents,” Jessica said.
Thanks to a chance encounter, Malachi is alive and well. If Gus Hutt had taken a different route that day or had not noticed what he thought was a "porcelain doll" in the water, Malachi's fate could have been very different. Thankfully, fate brought the fisherman and the boy together.